Digital Humanities Now

When I first heard about Digital Humanities Now, “a real-time, crowdsourced publication [that] takes the pulse of the digital humanities community and tries to discern what articles, blog posts, projects, tools, collections, and announcements are worthy of greater attention” I thought that, at last, there might be something that would get me tweeting.

DHN went online in early November using the Twittertim.es service to aggregate posts from more than 350 people tweeting away about digital humanities topics. As my friend and colleague Dan Cohen explains on his blog, he dreamed up DHN to “aggregate thousands of tweets and the hundreds of articles and projects those tweets point to, and boil everything down to the most-discussed items, with commentary from Twitter.” I wish I could have ideas this good.

Fortunately for me, DHN isn’t the thing that’s going to push me over the edge into the Twitterverse after all. I love the fact that DHN provides me with a convenient way to see what others are thinking about in my own area of interest. That’s the real tangible value of this experiment and I’m really glad my CHNM colleagues have made this happen. But the current version of the interface betrays all the hallmarks of people who have drunk the Twitter Koolaid in huge gulps.

Consider this item from December 2 letting readers know that the Zotero blog has announced a way to expand your storage on the Zotero servers. I needed to know that and because I read DHN before diving into the other feeds in my reader, I learned something I needed to know. Score one for DHN.

But the “commentary from Twitter” that is supposed to add value to the item reads like this:

Posted by these editors:
sherah1918:
RT @zotero: Zotero storage accts now available up to 10 GB! Sync PDFs and other files to personal and group libraries http://bit.ly/5RF6L5  02.12.2009 21.13

edmj: RT @zotero: Zotero storage accounts now available up to 10 GB! Sync PDFs and other files to personal & group libraries http://bit.ly/5RF6L5  02.12.2009 21.26

clioweb: RT @zotero: Zotero storage accounts now available up to 10GB! Sync PDFs and other files to personal and group libraries http://bit.ly/5RF6L5  02.12.2009 21.11

ryancordell: RT @zotero: Zotero storage accts now available up to 10 GB! Sync PDFs and other files to personal and group libraries http://bit.ly/5RF6L5 02.12.2009 21.41

zotero:Zotero storage accounts now available up to 10 GB! Sync PDFs and other files to personal and group libraries http://bit.ly/5RF6L5  02.12.2009 21.08

jcmeloni:RT @zotero: Zotero storage accounts now available up to 10 GB! Sync PDFs & other files to personal and group libraries http://bit.ly/5RF6L5  02.12.2009 21.10

digitalhumanist:RT @zotero: Zotero storage accounts now available up to 10 GB! Sync PDFs & other files to personal and group libraries http://bit.ly/5RF6L5  02.12.2009 21.28

amndw2: RT @zotero Zotero storage accounts now available up to 10 GB! Sync PDFs and other files to personal & group libraries http://bit.ly/5RF6L5  02.12.2009 21.15

Posted by others:
mdiggory: GMail = 7GB free / 80GB for $20, Zotero’s 100MB free / 1GB for $20? Its more affordable just to email the files around! http://bit.ly/5pC6dF  03.12.2009 00.51

I got it the first time and really didn’t need the additional seven additional tweets and re-tweets of storage “now available up to 10 GB!” The only “commentary” in this item was the item posted by a non-editor. A quick scan of the other items in DHN betrays this same level of tweet-speak…chatter repeated without much discernible value being added. Maybe it’s just because I don’t tweet that I find all that “commentary” annoying and really just so much clutter on the screen.

It seems to me the whole enterprise would be vastly improved by having the first five to ten lines of text from the item everyone is tweeting about with two links reading “Tweets from editors” and “Tweets from others”. Then those of us who still haven’t drunk any of the Koolaid can get what we want — news from the world of digital humanities — and the tweeters out there can get their fix of endless re-tweets with a simple mouse click.

So count me in as a devoted reader of the DHN feed. But you can still count me out of Twitter.

6 thoughts on “Digital Humanities Now

  1. Dan Cohen

    Fair enough. DHN is currently using the wholesale feed from Twittertim.es (which does the aggregation), which I agree is in most cases unhelpful and too heavy on retweets (which look bad in sequence but perform the important role of propagation to different networks). Watch for DHN 2.0 in early January for a much-improved design and less echo chamber–which will hopefully make it even less necessary for you to join Twitter. 😉

  2. Mills Post author

    Anything to keep me from tweeting will make me happy! Thanks again for dreaming this up!

  3. Trevor Munoz

    I agree this is fair criticism and of course it is early to judge yet. Capturing all of the retweeting may not in fact be helpful in the digitalhumanitiesnow.org feed. I would still like to be able to see the full list of who retweeted something–perhaps just usernames after the first few.

    Early indications suggest that DHnow is not fulfilling it’s promise of surveying the range of what’s important in this field—the Friday night at 5pm view, as it were. At the moment, what comes down the feed still feels like a quite narrow slice of digital humanities activity (even among the subgroup that tweets semi-actively).

    I am curious to see how the CHNM team can broaden and enrich this promising new resource in DHN 2.0.

  4. Jeremy Boggs

    While DHNow is great for finding out what folks in the DH twitter community are reading, its not so great at showing what they think about a particular link. I’m not sure if DHNow can really solve that using Twitter, either, since retweeting essentially involves republishing a tweet, sans commentary. The comments feature on the DH Now site could serve the purpose, of additional commentary. It would be pretty easy to hide the actually twitter messages in the post, too, if they’re too distracting or just not useful.

    One thing I think would be more useful is, instead of simply listing the tweets and retweets, to show some kind of metrics about how often a particular link was references or retweeted. If particular users share links that are retweeted more frequently, those users could be highlighted, and their contributed weighted more. In a way, it could incorporate reputation metrics based on the number of times someone’s links are retweeted.

    Even further, it would be interesting to see the retweeting of a particular link into different follower networks, in a interface similar to MentionMap. I would find it especially useful to see if a link that shows up on DH Now has a reach beyond the users DH Now is following.

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